Maternal Antibodies from Mothers of Children with Autism alter Brain Growth and Social Behavior Development in the Rhesus Monkey

Source: 
Translational Psychiatry
Date Published: 
July 9, 2013
Abstract: 

Antibodies directed against fetal brain proteins of 37 and 73 kDa molecular weight are found in approximately 12% of mothers who have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but not in mothers of typically developing children. This finding has raised the possibility that these immunoglobulin G (IgG) class antibodies cross the placenta during pregnancy and impact brain development, leading to one form of ASD. We evaluated the pathogenic potential of these antibodies by using a nonhuman primate model. IgG was isolated from mothers of children with ASD (IgG-ASD) and of typically developing children (IgG-CON). The purified IgG was administered to two groups of female rhesus monkeys (IgG-ASD; n=8 and IgG-CON; n=8) during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Another control group of pregnant monkeys (n=8) was untreated. Brain and behavioral development of the offspring were assessed for 2 years. Behavioral differences were first detected when the macaque mothers responded to their IgG-ASD offspring with heightened protectiveness during early development. As they matured, IgG-ASD offspring consistently deviated from species-typical social norms by more frequently approaching familiar peers. The increased approach was not reciprocated and did not lead to sustained social interactions. Even more striking, IgG-ASD offspring displayed inappropriate approach behavior to unfamiliar peers, clearly deviating from normal macaque social behavior. Longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging analyses revealed that male IgG-ASD offspring had enlarged brain volume compared with controls. White matter volume increases appeared to be driving the brain differences in the IgG-ASD offspring and these differences were most pronounced in the frontal lobes.